Dialed In Draws Solid Post


A cheer went up from the Dialed In camp when its stretch-running Florida Derby winner drew the coveted post 8 for Saturday's 137th Kentucky Derby at Churchill Downs

Conversely, there was a muted reaction from the connections of Uncle Mo when the 2-year-old champion landed post 18 in a field of 20.

So based on their post positions for the $2 million Run for the Roses, Churchill oddsmaker Mike Battaglia tabbed Dialed In the 4-1 favorite on the morning line, with Uncle Mo a close second choice at 9-2.

'I guess it could have gone either way,' said Dialed In trainer, Nick Zito. 'I'm flattered by it, very humbled.'

Uncle Mo, after romping through his first four starts, was expected to be a heavy favorite until the wheels came off when he finished third in the Wood Memorial. Owner Mike Repole and trainer Todd Pletcher said he came out of that race with an intestinal inflammation, and ever since Repole has said Mo is 50-50 to run in the Derby, 'but so is every other horse in the race.'

Citing Tuesday's defection of Wood winner Toby's Corner, Repole remained cautious yesterday

'Anyone who says his horse is 100 percent to run is dreaming,' Repole said. 'No doubt Mo is progressing. Whether he can progress enough to take on a 20-horse field going a mile-and-a-quarter on the first Saturday in May is a game-time decision. But I wouldn't put up $25,000 (the fee to enter, with another $25,000 to start) unless I thought he could.'

Uncle Mo will be re-examined today by a trio of veterinarians.

'That will be the last big step,' Repole said. 'When a horse has something internal, he can fool you and make you think he's 100 percent. We have until Saturday morning [to scratch him].'

By then, millions of dollars will have been bet on Uncle Mo, but Repole's not worried about that.

'I'm going to do what's best for my horse and for horseracing, and I can't worry about the betting pools,' Repole said. 'I'm still hoping Mo will be the big story at 7 o'clock Saturday night.'

As for the outside post, Repole said, 'I like the 18. Uncle Mo isn't a one-dimensional speed horse. There are five or six horses in the race with tremendous speed. Johnny [Velazquez, Mo's jockey] can let them go and draft in behind them. I'd rather be in posts 15 to 20 than 1 to 5.'

Repole's other Derby horse, Stay Thirsty -- who he said is 'training 1,000 percent' -- drew post 4, the same post Super Saver, Pletcher's first and only Derby winner (from 28 starters), broke from last year.

Two other top contenders have tough posts to overcome: Nehro, the 6-1 third choice in post 19; and Archarcharch, co-fourth choice at 10-1, in the dreaded 1 hole.

'I have always wanted to be No. 1, but not in the Kentucky Derby starting gate,' said trainer Jinks Fires. 'It's still the shortest way around, and at least I am not out next to the track kitchen.'

Nehro's trainer, Steve Asmussen, said, 'He needs to run the race of his life, but there is a lot of pace to his inside. I could see a lot of scenarios where it would be good for us.'

by Ed Fountaine


No horse going into Saturday's Kentucky Derby can boast a better performance profile, a faster speed chart or a better work pattern than the horse with the most ridiculous name -- Archarcharch.

And if that is not enough to get aboard his bandwagon, he is galloping proof that in racing, as elsewhere, luck's a fortune.

A couple of years ago, Bob Yagos, an Arkansas metal junk dealer, sent his trainer William 'Jinks' Fires to the Keeneland yearling sales with $100,000 to buy him a Kentucky Derby colt.

Jinks studied the sales catalogue and zeroed in on four good prospects. He was outbid on the first three, all going for prices far exceeding Jinks' modest bankroll. He managed to get the fourth, a son of Arch, for a mere $60,000. .

The first three yearlings have not been heard from since. The bargain fallback was Archarcharch, and now is a prime candidate to become a turf immortal if he can win the Derby.

That's luck, big time, especially since the horse has already earned more than $830,000.

But why on earth did they saddle him with such an arch-name?

At the barn yesterday, Yagos laughed and explained, 'For three reasons -- because he was sired by Arch, because we wanted a catchy name that would give racecallers some fun, and because we wanted a name that nobody would ever forget.'

Mission accomplished! Though around the barn, everybody calls him George.

The trainer, too, has a name that is hard to forget.

'They call me Jinks because that's what a baby sitter used to call me,' Fires said. 'Just remember, my name may be Jinks, but it is not spelled j-i-n-x!'

He may have been a bit jinxed yesterday when Archarcharch drew the No. 1 post, though he was still posted at 10-1 odds.

Still, the 70-year-old former rodeo bull- and bucking bronc-rider is living a dream. After 50 years as a trainer, he's two days from making his Derby debut.

'I never gave up hope of getting to the Derby,' Fires said. 'I always thought it could happen.'

Now it has, thanks to a horse he initially liked his conformation, alert look and placid disposition.

And he soon knew he had hooked a good one. Fires ran him in a maiden at Churchill Downs last November, when he finished an unlucky second. He immediately pitched him into a stakes race at the Fair Grounds, and he whistled.

'That's when we thought Kentucky Derby,' Jinks said. 'We decided to run him in the Southwest Stakes at Oaklawn, and if he won that, we'd try the Arkansas Derby, and if we won that, the Kentucky Derby.'

Archarcharch ran to the script. He won the Southwest, came from near last to win the Arkansas Derby, and here he is now, poised to complete the sweep.

'We have a very good chance,' Fires said. 'He has improved with every race and he has continued to improve here.'

He sure has. At Churchill Downs, Archarcharch immediately stopped watches with a five-furlong bullet work in 59.3 seconds, the best move of any Derby horse.

Two days ago, Fires sent him back to the track to exercise his legs, but the horse was so aggressive that clockers designated it a work, a three-furlong blowout in 38.60 seconds. The horse is on fire -- no pun intended.

The Derby trip is a dream come true for Fires, a genial man who is the second oldest of nine boys and two girls in a family that is wired top to bottom to the racetrack.

Eight of the boys have worked in racing, including Hall of Fame jockey, Earlie Fires. Jinks' daughter Krystal is married to jockey Jon Court, who was featured in the TV racing reality show, 'Jockeys,' and has ridden Archarcharch in all his races.

Court, 50, has won more than 3,500 races but he has never ridden in the Kentucky Derby till now.

And he'll be atop the horse with the funny name, just like Court's father-in-law, the trainer.

by Ray Kerrison
from nypost.com


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